By: Ford Pierre
Halloween is a celebration that originated in Anglo-Saxon countries. The word is a contraction of the English expression "All Hallows Eve". It originates from the Celtic festival (Samhain), organized to welcome the deceased and the Celtic New Year, more than 2,500 years ago. The Celtic calendar then ended on October 31, and that last night was the night of the god of death (Samhain).
Later, Catholics decided to celebrate All Saints 'Day on November 1 and if we refer to the expression "All Hallow Eve" it means the eve of "All Saints' Day". And today, this holiday is mainly celebrated in Western countries, specifically Anglo-Saxons.
What is Halloween in Haiti like? Do Haitians Celebrate Halloween?
Influenced by Western culture through films, documentaries or even social networks, for some time in Haiti, we have been struck by this tendency to want to celebrate Halloween as they do in the United States, Ireland, Canada and elsewhere, without thinking about the cultural consequences that this could have on our society. There is nothing wrong with wanting to adapt to other cultures, but keeping cultural authenticity is also important. What should not be forgotten is that what makes the strength of cultural globality is diversity and divergence. A proper identity is therefore essential to be part of international globe.
The Day of the Dead in Haiti
The day of the dead is celebrated differently in Haiti, every November 1 and 2, voodoo followers celebrate their gods of death by visiting cemeteries to dance, drink and spit around the graves. This traditional festival is called "The Guédés festival", or Fet Gede with it's colorful theme of black and purple.
Who are the “Guédés” in the Haitian Culture?
According to voodoo mythology, the “Guédés” are the spirits of death and resurrection represented by a family of “Loas”. They are beings who have already lived in real life and who manifest their states of coarseness when they arise. Under the influence of these spirits, subjects express themselves in strange ways and sometimes make fun of people. Traditionally led by Barons, they are used to eating peppers and glasses. Sometimes they even smear their intimate parts with chili and rum without feeling anything.
The Vibe During the “Guédés” Festival?
Every November 1 and 2, there is a parade through cemeteries in Haiti full of people with faces whitened with talcum powder who honor the souls of the dead by disguising themselves as a voodoo spirit. The aroma of coffee mixes with the smell of alcohol as you approach all Haitian cemeteries. After prayers and offerings, the “Guédés” fall into a kind of trance, attracting the eyes of several Haitians and foreigners. According to what people say, the Guédés consume alcohol and hot peppers because they come from a cold world.
While these traditions and customs may be a shock to you because you have not heard of it before, it is a part of Haitian culture that is appreciated by some. By others, it is a concept that they cannot grasp or understand. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate what you believe in, therefore, we strive to show the other side of Haiti that we don't often hear about or associate with stereotypes.
By: Ford Pierre
In the Haitian culture, depression is viewed as a taboo topic. Some believe depression is made up or an exaggeration of negative feelings. Many think that "Haitians aren't depressed" or "depression is not a Haitian problem."
Depression and Stigma in The Haitian Culture
Depression is by definition associated with social dysfunction and major personal suffering, and globally linked to precarious socio-political and economic conditions.
In Haiti, there is a distinction between "depression" to mean discouragement and "mental depression" as understood by Western psychiatry. Depression places a heavy psychological burden on the patient's caregivers and the patient himself, and can be associated with shame in the face of community support, due to the stigma surrounding it. When an individual experiences repeated psychotic episodes and their functioning is disrupted, they can be characterized as insane and considered to be definitely dysfunctional. His cognitive ability and judgment may never be reliable again, even after a long period of remission.
The Use of the Term "Moun Fou" in The Haitian Community
The term "Moun Fou" in Haitian context is a ready-made expression, used wrongly and through, or even a lack of language. This is due to the level of education of the population and the absence of a mental health policy in the country. In Haitian culture, an individual with an episode of any neurological disorder (depression, anxiety, or addiction to psychoactive substances) is considered insane. On the other hand, many Haitians qualify as "Moun Fou" often by extension, any person having thought or acted clumsily, without the term having anything to do with a pathology. It is important to understand the context of the term "Moun Fou" in Haitian society.
Postpartum Depression in Haitian Women
A couple of years ago, I was curious about postpartum depression in Haitians so I asked someone who works with pregnant women through the non-profit organization Midwives For Haiti.
Q: Can you tell me about the prevalence of depression in Haitian women during pregnancy and post partum?
A: "It is not in our screening process at the pre-postnatal screenings in Haiti- largely because we have no one to refer them to to get help and medications are not available or difficult to get for treatment. And we have no research about this.
Personally, my guess is that it is a huge problem because mothers have so little, have to work so hard to just have food and water for themselves, are worried all the time about their children dying, have already lost children, etc.
We are about to do the class on PP depression/anxiety and will ask the students what they know about it. We know of Haitian women who are depressed because of their behavior. Recently a midwife had a baby with cleft palate that died about a week later of aspiration and she just laid on her bed for months. Finally went back to work after 3 months but not because she was ready."
The Importance of Mental Health Across The Island of Haiti
Nowadays, there is an increase in mental disorders in Haiti. The country lacks a planned mental health policy according to the needs of the population, especially at a troubling time when poverty, instability and insecurity have reached their peak. Moreover, the budget allocated to mental health represents less than 1% of the overall budget reserved for public health.
Mental health is extremely neglected and ignored by the authorities when it should be the most representative in the fight to protect citizens and help them maintain full mental well-being, because according to WHO forecasts, neurological disorders are the second leading cause of death in the world.
A friend of The Real Haiti Marie Valsaint, Founder and CEO of Haitians Thrive, provided us with a Development and Validation of a Haitian Creole Screening Instrument for Depression by Andrew Rasmussen, et. al. This document is useful to those trying to identify, diagnosis and treat mental illness, especially depression in the Haitian community.
Do you have any research on depression in the Haitian culture that you'd love to share? Please let us know and we'd love to support you and our community.
By: Ford Pierre
Haitian sweet treats are not only delicious, they are beautifully crafted with rich historical meaning behind them. With it's popularity in Haiti and abroad, many love the Haitian fudge candy dous makòs. If you've been lucky enough to taste the delicious Haitian dessert "dous makòs", I bet you haven't thought about how this magic formula originated. Typically, we don't think about the stories behind food, but they are so important, especially in the Haitian culture for preserving the authentic gastronomy.
Today we will explore together one of the tastiest Haitian products, the "dous makòs".
The Origin Of Dous Makòs
This rectangular-shaped multicolored candy, made mainly from milk and sugar, is part of the food heritage and marks the identity of the city of Petit-Goâve. "Dous makòs" is a specialty of the city of Faustin Soulouque (Emperor of the Republic of Haiti between 1847 and 1859, under the name of Faustin 1st), this commune, located 68 km south of Port-au-Prince, in the western department. The natives of Petit-Goâve attach so much importance to their product that even a carnaval celebration bears its name "Kanaval Dous Makòs la".
Historical Reference For Dous Makòs
According to what the story tells, the "dous makòs" was created in the 1930s by Mrs. Macoss. This oral history tale turned a corner when in 1939, Mrs. Fernand Labarre, an employee in Madame Macoss's factory, took over the activities of her late boss by marketing the multicolored candy under the name "La Douce de Madame Macoss" hence the name "Dous Makòs". In fact, the creation of this fabulous dessert is attributed to Mrs. Macoss.
Dous Makòs Ingredients And Recipe
The formula has been carefully learned and transmitted over the years by the Labarre family; they consider it a family recipe. The candy fudge can be found for sale in all areas of Haiti. It's a staple item to bring as gifts to family and friends, especially when visiting from Haiti.
There are three types of "dous makòs" depending on the milk used for a rich range of flavor such as chocolate etc. This candy is striped with five color layers, two of which are pink and brown. It is generally pink in color, this color is obtained by diluting pink cochineal powder in ordinary alcohol or clairin (Haitian Creole for drinking alcohol).
Today, even if it is a pioneer in the field, the exclusivity of the dous makòs brand is not attributed to the Labarre family because there are other workshops in Petit-Goâve and in neighboring regions which produce it. The delicious "dous makòs" is one of those products that have made a special place for themselves in Haitian gastronomy.
If you're looking for dous makòs for sale, check out Bon Bon Lakay to purchase online!
Let us know in the comments if you've tried dous makòs and what you thought of it!
By: Ford Pierre
Have you ever heard of or tasted Haitian "Konparèt"? This famous succulent candy is rich in vitamin B6 is renowned for its originality. This Haitian treat that looks like a cake and tastes delicious!
Origins of Haitian Treat Konparèt
The "Konparèt" comes from Jérémie, the capital of the department of Grande-Anse in Haiti. This resplendent city, known for its poetry, because it is the city of poets and for the originality of its gastronomy that makes you drool. Speaking of its gastronomy, all Haitians know that "Tonm-Tonm" and "Konparèt" are emblematic figures in the field. In other words, Jérémie is the capital of "Konparèt" in Haiti and the natives are very proud of their products. But what is paradoxical is that they do not really consume it, because the majority of "Konparèt" are exported through other regions of the country and sometimes even abroad. However, many other parts of the country produce "Konparèt", but in terms of quality and quantity, the city of Jérémie is the best producer.
When we talk about this magical product, people wonder what is its recipe is or where the formula comes from. According to legend, the magic formula of "Konparèt'' came from a Martinican who during her stay in Jérémie would have taught Grann Louqui (Grandma Louqi) how to prepare the recipe. And since then, the succulent candy sprung up in Jérémie with the name "Konparèt".
Preparation and Indulgence of Haitian Konparèt
To prepare the "Konparèt", certain ingredients are very important. Flour, milk, cinnamon, banana fig, sugar cane, ginger or even coconut are the essential elements that constitute it. Once all of these ingredients are put together, it will create a paste and after the paste goes in the oven, the "Konparèt" is ready to be consumed. However, it can be consumed in different ways, either with cheese, milk, "Manba" (peanut butter) or even avocado!
Check out this recipe if you're brave enough to make it! Or follow this Pinterest board to save for later.
Let us know in the comments what your favorite Haitian dessert is.
Today is National Beach Day and I thought it would be fun to share beautiful beach photos of Haiti with you. I really couldn't pick a favorite beach in Haiti because there hasn't been one I didn't like!
The photo below illustrates so many things for me about Haiti. I took the photo in a secluded area on Ile a Vache. There are many different parts of the sea that grew together and eventually combined into one piece. And as the outside in Haiti is chaotic and many times unfair, one thing that will always remain the same is the beauty under the sea. As Sebastian from The Little Mermaid once said..."Down here all the fish is happy."
While of course I cannot ignore the trials that Haiti is experiencing, I believe in still sharing the beauty of Haiti and her people. It's part of Haiti's narrative that deserves to be shown!
Which is your favorite beach in Haiti?
Happy National Beach Day!
I had no idea to take care of my kids hair because mine is nothing like it!
No hair texture, type, length or style is alike! That's what makes us all so beautiful...our uniqueness, especially those who won the hair lottery with beautiful curls. Those beautiful curls are not the easiest to take care of! After 6 years of brushes, detanglers, shampoos, conditioners, oils, leave in conditioners, methods and lots of tears, we have finally found a hair care routine. And we are sharing it all here with you!
My husbands hair is coarse and dry, long dreads and my hair is thick, wavy hair. Our boys have curly, but very different textures and lengths. In my opinion, the first essential item needed is a great brush. We have tried almost every single brush out there. Finally, we have discovered the best curly hair brush which takes the tangles out and leaves curls super defined.
3. Add a high-quality conditioner and use a generous amount so that the whole head is covered and you can still see the white part of the conditioner all over. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
4. While the hair is 'marinading' separate any areas that are matted or clumped together using your hands, finger comb it through as best you can.
5. Get out of the bath and spray Mizani Miracle Milk detangler (a little pricey, but worth it! You don't need a lot) all over the hair and start brushing...Don't skip this product! Keep the hair as wet as possible with a spray bottle.
6. After detangling, use a generous amount of SGX NYC Curl Power Creme for each curl. Add the curl cream in sections so that each piece is covered.
Throughout the week, if curls get fuzzy, add some conditioner and water in a spray bottle to wet the hair, use the tangle-free brush to redefine curls and apply SGX NYC Curl Power Creme.
Do you have any magical products for curly hair or effective routines? I would love you to share them in the comments!
Have you ever tried to ship something to Haiti?
Now is certainly not the time to try or to attempt to arrange logistics in order to get items to Haiti. As I have been following the news and social media accounts, there are many people trying to 'do their part' by organizing activities to collect items that are needed by Haitians and rescue relief workers. In my opinion, it's a 'feel good' activity that is often self-fulfilling and also temporary. The thought is: If I donate _____, I will feel good because _______ many people will benefit. Then I will move on with my life and feel like I made a difference. Let me break it down to those who don't understand Haiti and the challenges that are associated.
In a perfect world, your items would arrive to Haiti and Haitians would get your items in a timely manner and then start using them. In reality, this often never happens because of many logistical issues in getting goods to Haiti. There are professional thieves who stay at the port or even work there that are ready to receive your donated items that they confiscate and never reach those in need. Also, in this particular instance, getting to the south of Haiti in Ley Cayes where the earthquake happened is not easy on a good day. Now add in debris and chaos from the tragic earthquake, country insecurity, foreigners trying to get in on the one-way-in-one-way-out road. I beg you to rethink the way you 'help, donate, organize, collect, etc. for Haiti.
When I didn't know any better yet, I advocated for a small non profit to collect backpacks and school supplies for Haiti. It 'felt good' knowing that the items collected would be distributed to those who needed it. Until they weren't. I asked months after the collection if the items arrived and I was told no, they did not have the funds to ship the items and didn't know how to logistically get them there in a way they could afford it. This is where my experience influenced my philosophy. So what happened to the backpacks and supplies? Did they ever make it? Did they end up donated here in the US instead? The donors will never know. Lesson learned for me....
Find orgs and businesses that you can buy from IN HAITI.
If you want to help and contribute to the relief efforts in Haiti, consider doing it differently. Haiti doesn't need your old tshirts or tennis shoes. If you buy products from Haitian businesses, you're helping them succeed already. Plus, you're not adding to the chaos logistical nightmare. Here's a short list of orgs and businesses I trust:
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me in the comments.
By Kenneth D. Weiss
Suddenly, the lights went out. It was pitch dark, but the drumming went on, deep and rhythmic.
I was in the old Hotel Oloffson in Port au Prince, Haiti on a dark night in 1992. In the taxi I had hailed, the lazy windshield wipers could keep pace with a gentle rain.
A gingerbread mansion built in the 1890s, the Oloffson became a hotel around 1940. On some nights it offers voodoo ceremonies for its guests, other visitors to the island, and some Haitians. Voodoo is part Catholicism but with drumming, chanting, dancing, and often animal sacrifice, sudden trances, and more. The voodoo dolls we hear of are a small part of it.
Entering the hotel, I passed the reception desk and crossed a room of wicker furniture and colorful paintings, then entered a larger space where 20 or more people enjoyed coffee, dessert, and smooth Haitian rum. There was a stage on one side. I sat at a small table and strained to eavesdrop on conversations in English, French, Haitian Creole, and other languages.
About 9:30 p.m., the lights dimmed, and drumming began off-stage, quietly at first and then faster, then still faster and louder. Then, drummers and dancers appeared on stage in exotic costumes. The dancers moved around a central point, bowing, swinging arms and legs, and chanting to contact the spirits. Over the noise, I could hear the rain start to come down harder.
The drums beat still louder, the dancers moved still faster, the atmosphere was electric, and then, pop! The electricity went off. The drumming did not stop, however. The show continued, lighted by flickering candles and flashes of lightning. The thunder was ominous. Those of us in the audience were awestruck. We were transported to a forest clearing on a stormy Haitian night.
The show ended abruptly, and the patrons sat in silence. Then, we stumbled out to a parking lot, lighted only by cars and taxis waiting to drive us away. The rain let up and, this time, my taxi’s windshield wipers worked well. In my hotel in Petionville, above the city, there were electricity and soft music.
Officially, only 2% of Haitians still practice voodoo but, unofficially, the number is said to be much higher. The voodoo in the Oloffson is for show, but the real thing continues.
Kenneth D. Weiss writes memoirs, creative non-fiction, and poetry, and translates from Spanish to English. His publications include a set of vignettes about Haiti, a book of translated poetry, magazine articles, and four books on importing and exporting. He is an active supporter of the annual book fair in Gaithersburg, Maryland and heads a Creative Writers Group in that city. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees, has lived in six countries and traveled to about 80, and speaks three languages.
Photos by Diana Pierre-Louis, The Real Haiti
Hotel Oloffson 2014
As the slogan says, Haiti, Experience It! There's a certain magic to Haiti that people who have visited only understand. There are so many 'different' things to observe as outsiders, and yet, most of us keep those photographic memories stored in our heads.
A friend of The Real Haiti, Kenneth D. Weiss, emailed me to see if I would publish his epilogue that he captured while staying abroad in Haiti. After reading through the narrative, I couldn't wait to share it with you here.
Copyright © 1994 by Kenneth D. Weiss
In 1993, the United Nations, including the USA, imposed a trade embargo on Haiti. Most goods were prohibited from entering or leaving the Haitian half of the island of Hispaniola. The announced purpose was to persuade the military dictatorship to reinstate the elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been deposed by a coup in 1991.
As with most embargos, the poor people, most of the people in Haiti, suffered much more than the rich.
The author of these notes was no stranger to Haiti. In March and April 1994, he returned to work there for a month. He could not help but observe the effects of the embargo and record his impressions.
Click here to download the full document.
Thank you, Kenneth, for sharing your experience in 'The Real Haiti'. Sound off in the comments and let Kenneth know what you thought!
It was a cool brisk morning in Petionville, Haiti when we left the Best Western hotel to go to a radio studio to be interviewed. Chef Alain Lemaire and I were in the hotel shuttle bus preparing to talk about an upcoming food festival that Alain was cooking at and I was photographing. It was my first "solo" trip to Haiti without my husband. It felt weird, but also empowering.
The interview was going pretty well until the popular talk show host started speaking to me in Creole. I froze. I started sweating and panicking because my Creole was not good enough to speak on a Haitian radio station. I kindly told him that I was more comfortable speaking English for the interview and he pretty much said, how can you have a website about Haiti and not even speak Creole? I was mortified, but we continued the interview which was also broadcasted in the US. In the end, it went well and I was happy I did it.
Although I was embarrassed about what had happened, I didn't let it stop me from continuing to spread the word about The Real Haiti. From then on, I made it my business to continue to learn as much as I could about Haiti even if I didn't know or speak Creole perfectly.
Since then, I created The Real Haiti Academy, the first and only digital site with Haitian cultural lessons and activities for kids. I did years or research, collaboration and executing ideas to make sure I was providing something that was not available....
The interest sparked when my husband and I started having kids. I didn't want to be stuck in a spot where I "couldn't talk or teach about Haiti because I didn't speak Creole perfectly" with our boys. In order to teach them about Haiti and introduce them to the Creole language, I started creating worksheets, coloring pages and activities about Haiti and the Haitian culture. Truth is, I created them myself because it was impossible to find any online!
Sticking to our original mission of bringing light to the amazing culture, places and people of Haiti, I am thrilled to be connected and happy that you've found us by downloading the freebie worksheets.
If you like the freebie worksheets, I promise you will LOVE The Real Haiti Academy. It truly is a one-of-a-kind platform that has endless amounts of multimedia materials to learn about Haiti. You won't find this unique information anywhere else....and it's easy....all in one place!
P.S. You don't need to speak Creole to use it. Everything is in English and Creole.